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Style and Substance

Super Style Warz, 5 Seasons, Feb. 23

MICROPHONE FIENDS: (from left) D-Mic battles Karlito at Super Style Warz.

By Jason Torres | Posted 3/8/2006

For the last year, the final Thursday of each month has become a night when a local MC’s rep can be elevated or shattered with just a 70-second performance on the 5 Seasons’ quaint nightspot stage. This fact is all thanks to Style Warz, the unique hip-hop battle that has the city’s MCs going at it mano-à-mano, trying to outshine each other and dazzle the crowd with their best 16-bar rap-and-hook combination for two judges—with the crowd casting the deciding vote in the event of a tie.

The Feb. 23 showcase celebrated its first anniversary by having the past year’s winners return for Super Style Warz, a traditional anything-goes battle—think 8 Mile—with a $1,000 prize and featured acts ROP and Real 2 Real. From the start it was literally standing room only. The packed crowd swayed to the MCs’ rhythmic insults and boasts as the bar called in reinforcements to handle the overwhelming number of patrons, a clear sign of how popular the event has become.

“I adapted the format from a poetry-slam event I was DJing and promoting and made it fit into a more exciting format for a hip-hop event,” says Pete Lynch, aka DJ P-Funk, who, along with host Courtney Wheeler, created, co-promotes, and DJs the monthly event. “It was based on a need for another outlet for MCs to get on the mic with a competitive but nonvolatile edge to it. Club owners are intimidated by ‘MC battle/competition.’”

By the time of the main event, after a scorching performance from Real 2 Real, the room was rumbling. The first battle featured crowd favorite Symphony from the gully girl trio Tha Plague, the only woman ever to walk away with the Style Warz crown, against against the balanced and lyrically deft winner of the first Style Warz, Ab Rock. The judges—Bilal, from Crushforce, and Ahk, host of WEAA’s (88.9 FM) Strictly Hip-Hop—and the crowd knew they were in for a treat. Every MC was clearly prepared and ready to comply with the strict rules—16 bars, be sure to perform for the crowd, and include a hook. It made for a smooth battle, without the lulls typical of “freestyle” battles and their inevitable “uh,” “um,” and “yo, check 1-2, check 1-2” mutterings.

After the contestants were whittled down to two—the charismatic EJ and January’s champion Midas—the second featured act of the night, ROP, ignited the stage with several cuts from its new Gritty Gang mix tape. The compilation features the entire ROP family as well as guest spots from many of the city’s top MCs, most of that were either onstage at some point during the evening or in the crowd. It’s a sign that members of the local rap community, many of whom meet at events like Style Warz, are establishing a type of solidarity.

“We’re funneling thousands of dollars back into the hip-hop community each year,” Lynch says. “And [Style Warz is] helping to empower up-and-coming MCs, helping to enhance their performance and industry readiness by demanding that they incorporate techniques used by successful artists, even down to the basic networking aspects of the event.”

The finals were explosive. Midas has the ability to control the crowd seemingly at will, but it was the heartfelt and witty original song by EJ that proved to be too much for the likable Midas to recover from: “October 23rd/ Just had my baby girl/ I gotta get on, I gotta show my baby girl the world/ Porcelain, gold, diamonds, and pearls/ First day of college, draped in furs/ Take her to the mountains, let her feed the birds/ Fly back and park my private plane on my curb.”

And suddenly it was wrap. EJ won the cash and the trophy, and when his moment was over the two combatants shook hands. You gotta love it.

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